Tuesday, June 9, 2009

New from the CIA

A spanking new look for the CIA World Factbook website; here's from yesterday's press bulletin:

June 08, 2009 - Completely redesigned website - presenting a cleaner look, improved navigation, and a host of added features - launched on the World Wide Web. Among the major enhancements are downloadable and printable photos for nearly 100 countries, a "Did You Know?" section explaining the impact of the Factbook around the world, and built-in world rankings for many of the Factbook information fields. Government sections reflect the results of recent parliamentary elections in Kuwait - where women were elected for the first time - and India, as well as presidential elections in Lithuania, Mongolia, Panama, and South Africa.

There used to be the notion that the CIA was populated by scholarly/literary types with Ivy League educations, but verbiage such as "The World Factbook is a unique reference in that it is updated continuously - on average, every two weeks" suggests that this is no longer the case. On the other hand, "a host of added features - launched on the World Wide Web" has a helpless ring to it, as if penned by a bookish sort miserably and cluelessly adrift in a new age.

I was curious about the Did You Know? section promising to explain "the impact of the Factbook around the world."  As a librarian, one is naturally curious about the impact of a particular reference book on the world around us. How do they measure it? Turns out the impact assessment was this: [The World Factbook] presents the basic realities about the world in which we live. We share these facts with the people of all nations in the belief that knowledge of the truth underpins the functioning of free societies. Let it not be said that the CIA hides its light under a bushel...

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